I perceived during the reading of this week's Torah parashah (Deutornomy/Devariam 34:6) that the verb in יִּקְבֹּ֨ר is in the future:

וַיִּקְבֹּ֨ר אֹת֤וֹ בַגַּי֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מוֹאָ֔ב מ֖וּל בֵּ֣ית פְּע֑וֹר וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע אִישׁ֙ אֶת־קְבֻ֣רָת֔וֹ עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה:

However in the translation it appears as the following:

And He buried him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe'or. And no person knows the place of his burial, unto this day.

As we see in bold, buried is in the past, not in future as it was written in hebrew. How to deal with it?

  • I presume that I need not advice that Hebrew verbs do NOT have tense but only aspect. Further, while qal imperfect is often translated as future tense, it does not have to be - this is one of those many cases where it cannot be translated as future tense.
    – Dottard
    Sep 25, 2023 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


The word for burying (וַיִּקְבֹּ֨ר) is an imperfect. But, with special pointing, it becomes a "waw consecutive imperfect." A w.c.imf. inverts the normal aspect/tense of the verb (from future to past).

How do you know when it's a w.c.imf.? It has a waw + patach (vowel) + dagesh forte. Without this pattern it's just a plain old imperfect.

I learned this as a "Waw consecutive imperfect." Other grammarians refer to it as converted imperfect or inverted future. Cf. JM:

§ 47. Inverted Future וַיִּקְטֹל

47a The inverted future, e.g. וַיִּקְטֹל and he killed, has a strong Waw, that is to say, a Waw which has vowel a that adds some force (like that of the definite article [§ 35 b] and that of the interrogative pronoun מה [§ 37 c]) to the following consonant, which, as a consequence, is doubled. The doubling is omitted in, e.g. וַיְקַטֵּל (§ 18 m)1.

With the Waw inversive the verb form undergoes two changes in accordance with the phonetic laws: 1) the final vowel reflects earlier shortening as in the jussive (§ 46 a); 2) the stress falls on the penultimate syllable, and as a consequence, the post-stress, ultima vowel becomes short2.

(Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, vol. 27 of Subsidia biblica. Accordance electronic ed. (Roma: Pontificio istituto biblico, 2006), 128-129.)

  • Can you give me one example of this usage waw + patach (vowel) + dagesh forte? Sep 27, 2023 at 9:57
  • there are many, many examples of this. e.g.: ”וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב הָלַ֣ךְ לְדַרְכּ֑וֹ וַיִּפְגְּעוּ־ב֖וֹ מַלְאֲכֵ֥י אֱלֹהִֽים׃“ (Genesis 32:2 HMT-W4). Here, note the w.c.imf. use with פָּגַע. They met him.
    – Epimanes
    Sep 27, 2023 at 12:42

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